Time is the equalizer it seems, when one is trying to gain back some of the lost art of comprehension.
For every bad day where the roar of the tinnitus, or the poor quality of the conversation due to background noise, there are golden days where I stumble at first; then adjust; then roll with the topics de jour.
I had the good fortune of being invited out last Wednesday night, to a group gathering of the co-workers where my friend Mary works.
Always nervous at first at being judged as different, I slink into seat and listen as best I can.
The venue was a restaurant, so I was handicapped right out of the gate. Lots of noise from bar area, other tables filled with families and little ones screaming around the tables.
I grabbed enough of the conversations that I jumped in when I was positive I had it nailed.
When unsure, I would listen hard and fill in the blanks.
I am fortunate that my friend Mary helps out. She watches my look to see if I pose a quizzical frown, or a nod of "ah ha, I got it" acknowledgment. She is kind and good to me to ensure that I am part of the world at large. Ever careful to keep me at least in the loop of conversation.
What a nice feeling to be back in the world! I so enjoy the art of conversation. The banter and playing with issues. The tossing and lobbing out of opinions, to see who will volley them back over the net.
It has been a long time since I sat and took part in social gatherings of any sort.
I was a giddy as a school boy at Christmas.
Today I went for my one year Cochlear Implant sound test. In a few days I will celebrate the anniversary of my activation on May 1st last year. The test in the booth is simple: Words are heard by me from a speaker that sits in the sound proof booth, at various levels of volume.
I just repeat them. The audiologist records my mark.
"Duck" comes through the speaker
"Duck" I say back
So far so good. If only the world worked in simple one word conversations.
The next part of the test is listening to sentences.
Five or six word sentences using all of the "Ling" sounds are heard by me, in the booth. I just have to repeat the sentence.
"The boys drank the water" is played through the accoustically perfect sound system, in the perfectly sound proofed and quiet room.
"The boys drank the water" I repeat back.
Next is the "HINT" test or "hearing in noise test", where sentences are played through the speakers as in the last test, but there is the roar of background noise. Very much like real life.
Very much like last Wednesday where the roar of a restaurant frustrates us.
I guess a lot.
If I can get one or two words, I can string together a pretty good guess.
"But dime cause da train repeat" is what I hear.
"What time does the train leave" is what I repeat.
Just like real life.
Fake it to make it.
Fill in blanks, read lips, nod your head, laugh when others laugh. Never let them see your puzzled look if you can help it.
My scores were high, and I was pleased. It has been quite a year since my activation.
My world changed more dramatically and drastically then I would have ever imagined.
One year ago today, I was deaf as a stump, but implanted with a on-board PC that would have a processor linked to it in a few more days, via a magnet.
The first sounds I heard after 230 days in utter and profound silence, were the beeps of my audiologist program to set volume levels to be fired at my auditory nerve. The setting of the sound levels had me grinning from ear to deaf ear.
The first voice I heard in 230 days was my audiologist.
I almost wet myself with laughter because she sounded like Minny Mouse after a mouthful of helium was sucked into the cartoon character.
Everyone sounded like that for weeks. Men and women alike all sounded like the mouse on helium.
Patience and work prevailed, and I grew in leaps and bounds to where I sit and listen today.
Comprehension is in the 90% in both quiet and noise in the cozy confines of the audiologist booth.
Not so high in the real world.
Much has happened in the year that saw me go from deafness, to digital sound.
Many losses, but many gains.
Back to work, gain of balance, new friends, new life really!
I like where I am, but more importantly like where I am headed. I figured out the world of change and the way to deal with it is acceptance.
My number of problems is no different from yours. We all have 83 problems, every day.
I stopped trying to pair that number down a long time ago. I need to respect the 83, and move forward.
The snow melted after a long winter.
The world of work greeted me after a 15 month medical recovery.
New wonderful and amazing friends came into my life.
And sound returned to my life after a long hiatus.
So as easy as it is be reflective as I celebrate my one year in new sound, I am more apt to acknowledge and accept the changes that happened.
I have a new way of hearing.
I have a new and very different life.
I have new and wonderful people in my life.
I still have 83 problems.
They are just different then they were 365 days ago.